Charting the reign of Queen Elizabeth, this third season starts in the Swinging Sixties and takes us through to 1977. Over 10 episodes, writer Peter Morgan weaves a compelling story of the main Royals, from the relationship between the Queen and Prince Philip to the emergence of a more confident Princess Margaret, and Charles’s first dalliances with the then Camilla Shand who would become his bride and the Duchess of Cornwall.
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In an unprecedented move, non-Netflix members can sample the first episode for free.
The season story arc is punctuated by controversial plots, some known, some rumours, and some simple speculation. In the first episode, Cambridge spy Sir Anthony Blunt, who was Keeper of the Queen’s Pictures, appears to blackmail Philip over the Duke’s rumoured connection with the Profumo Scandal.
“You treacherous snake,” Philip snarls at the traitor.
Far more controversially is speculation of an affair between Elizabeth, played by Oscar-winner Olivia Colman, and her horse racing manager, Porchey.
They visit international horse breeders where “she gets a glimpse of the life she could have led, were she free to pursue her passions”.
Former press secretary to the Queen, Dickie Arbiter, has denied the affair ever took place, saying the story involving Lord Porchester had been “washing around for decades”. He added: “It’s absolute nonsense.”
The same analysis might be applied to Margaret (Helena Bonham Carter) who apparently successfully negotiated a “bailout” from US President Lyndon Johnson over a loan after enjoying a state dinner with him and swapping rude limericks. All the while Margaret’s marriage is becoming toxic.
Helena said: “Tony and Margaret were two people who couldn’t live with, or without each other. It was like Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.”
Equally contentious is a plot line from episode nine. Wallis Simpson, the widow of the Duke of Windsor, advises Charles about his relationship with Camilla: “Never turn your back on love, and watch out for your family.”
When the Queen learns Camilla is still in love with Andrew Parkes Bowles she “assents the separation of the young couple”.
Olivia said of the Queen’s relationship with Charles: “She wants to protect him but also needs him to know he’s going to be next. There’s some friction as well, as there would be. Show me a mother and young adult who are fine with everything. Some of his decisions are quite difficult for her and vice versa.”
Josh O’Connor from The Durrells plays Charles. He said: “Camilla is hugely important in terms of Charles’s overall arc because she talks to him like an ordinary human being.
“She takes the mick out of Charles but also looks after and adores him. It’s possibly the first time we’ve seen that with him.”
This series ends in 1977 when Charles met Lady Diana Spencer, which will dominate season four.
Writer Peter Morgan, said: “It’s really interesting with Diana. I don’t have any particular interest in monarchy as such, but I have an enormous interest in what it does to a group of people who are trapped within it.”
● The Crown is now on Netflix.